So he began mapping out a strategy. It would include enlisting a reliable support network for getting from Portland, Oregon, to nowhere Alaska, where they’d board bush planes en route to the Ivishak. A flyfishing component would be mandatory. There would need to be clear-cut educational elements to secure grants—in this case the in-your- face effects of climate change in the Arctic Refuge, which manages 19.64 million acres of public land in the northeastern corner of the state. And a seasoned guide would be key—someone more Richard Proenneke than Chris McCandless to lead Brown’s flotilla through an untrammeled expanse that sees only 1,200 people annually. A trickle compared to the gusher of 560,757 visitors that washed through Denali’s gates last year.
Barry Whitehill would be that guy. After speaking with Brown at Soul River HQ last winter, ”I learned enough to know Chad hadn’t done an Arctic trip and was in need of a fairy godmother. I knew I could be that for him.” Whitehill, 64, grew up with a steelheading father. By the age of 12, he was navigating rivers like the Salmon and Grande Ronde, manning oars while dad marinated flies. As a young man he worked for the USFWS at refuges in Idaho, Nevada, and Washington. But Alaska beckoned. He said goodbye to the Lower 48 in 2008 and currently lives in Fairbanks, where he maintains ties to the land via his gig as an environmental specialist with FEMA, and where he continues to row hundreds to thousands of miles annually inside and outside the Arctic Refuge.
During the last eight years Whitehill has witnessed a gearshifting landscape in northern Alaska. "The Arctic," he says, "with the melting of permafrost layers, and a historically stunted tundra now alive with new growth, offers a great lens
to see climate change." Due to its Wi-Fi nullifying coordinates and dearth of Pokemon sightings, it's also a good place
to impress lessons on kids. The contrast between big city hustle and great wide outside was infectiously entertaining
for 16-year- old Tyrell Hall. Sporting a flattop fade and a healthy dose of hip-hop swagger, Hall was one of the five
youth leaders who made the Arctic voyage. In addition to watching the braided Ivishak unfold before him, the various
birds soaring through the peripheries blew him away. Hall and his inner-city peers, most with interests in science, and
all struggling with various adolescent ills ranging from self-doubt to broken homes, was tasked with keeping a detailed
journal. Scrawled across the pages were highlights of both his budding interest in ornithology (birds), and his plans to
introduce a "natural revolution" curriculum at his high school inVancouver, Washington. "I want to get out there and
be an activist for nature," he says.